Gosh, it’s good to be back!  I know, it’s only been a week but it’s been a long one and, truth be told, I miss my outpourings twice weekly.  Second nature to me now and, remember, during the first lockdown, I posted every daybut, then, you’ve read them all, haven’t you?!  Actually, I amaze myself when I think of the archives I have amassed – seven years’ worth.  Hard to believe I have that much to say for one so shy and retiring.  No exclamation mark?

So, slipped right back into my blethering mode.  I’m trying to avoid the obvious because, quite honestly, I’m exhausted – freezing and exhausted!  This winter has seemed never-ending.  Admittedly, little on the snow front but the hurricane winds and incessant rain courtesy of a plethora of storms seemingly determined to cover the entire alphabet, when would it end?  Darkness was all around …  Zip it!  Not a thing to complain about given the evil Putin is inflicting on Ukraine.  No words.  However, the sun is shining here today and the skies are blue.  I’m still freezing but yesterday brought the first piece of good news in forever:  Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe touched down on British soil after six years wrongful imprisonment in Iran.  Something to celebrate at last but I have one question – how can she look so amazing after her torturous ordeal?  A stunning lady, I loved, too, the fact that she had deliberately dressed in the colours of Ukraine.  Class.  There was someone else with her, though, also released after four and a half years for alleged spying: Anoosheh Ashoori.  I had been unaware of his name – or story – before yesterday which says much for the tireless campaigning of Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin’s husband.  I followed his story over the years as he did everything in his power to combat the seeming inertia of the Foreign Office.  The truth is his wife’s freedom wasn’t worth the £400million we owed Iran for some tanks which never materialised, until now when we need an alternative oil supply to that from Russia!  Nice touch for Liz Truss to fly out to Iran and accompany Nazanin and Anoosheh home, though.  Well, she does enjoy flying in style – no Ryanair for her – and who’s to criticise her for turning up at the final hurdle and bathing in the glory?  No, that glory goes to none other than Richard Ratcliffe, Liz!  Deserving of a happy ending, a story which restored my faith, however fleetingly.

It is also a story reminiscent of that of Beirut hostage, John McCarthy, and his girlfriend, Jill Morrell more than thirty years ago, now.  John, a journalist, had been on assignment in Lebanon in April 1986 and was en route to the airport and his flight home when his car was intercepted and he was captured by Islamic Jihad terrorists.  Held hostage for five years – much of it sharing a cell with Irish hostage Brian Keenan – he was chained, blind-folded and tested to the limit while, back home, his fiancé did everything in her power to keep his story alive and secure his release.  Shy and unassuming, she became a familiar face on our television screens between 1986 and 1991, when John was finally released.  Even now, I can still see the news footage in my mind and the whole country’s excitement as we shared in the happy ending …  Except that, in the end, it wasn’t.  John’s five-year ordeal had, inevitably, changed him.  Unable to turn back time, four years later they went their separate ways.  John married in 1999 and has one daughter.  Jill, age 51, remains single; no children.  Cruel.  Just cruel.  I have said, before, that I cannot believe their story has not been made into a film.  It has it all but, in the end, love wasn’t enough.  It is one which made a huge impact on me and one I have never forgotten.  It was 2012 when I met John McCarthy at the Edinburgh Book Festival.  Promoting his latest offering, I really wanted Becca and Manny to see him; know about him.  We listened to him talk about his latest book, never mentioning the elephant in the room.  There were questions at the end but not one person asked about Jill Morrell.  I did.  He made a swift exit but we caught him!  He signed my book, posed for a photo and I said “Please tell me you’re still in touch with Jill Morrell?”.   He said he was.  That was all I needed to know.

Comic Relief is on in the background as I write.  Lenny Henry looks old and way too skinny!  The whole format seems tired.  Maybe it’s just me.  Mind you, I’m. grateful we still have a television …  Had it for years and I remember thinking, when we first got it, that it belonged in a cinema.  Huge!  Years on, it is positively minuscule in today’s terms.  Part of the room, in no way does it dominate, nor is it attached to the wall – telling!  Perfectly adequate, age has ensured one trifling problem – the on/off button on the top has disappeared inside!  Nothing a bit of initiative can’t deal with – or couldn’t.  Enter the plastic spoon from Pret.  Yes, thought of everything.  No electric shock for us …  Push the stem of the spoon through the hole and wait for the familiar noise of TV clicking on.  It’s been three years now and, yes, it’s been costly in that we’ve had to replace the spoon but nothing has prevented us watching Neighbours until …

Two nights ago, there was no familiar sound.  No clicking on.  Help!  No TV?!!  The prospect was too hideous to contemplate.  I mean, what is one supposed to do instead?  Answers on a postage stamp.  Thankfully, panic averted.  Screwdrivers in action to remove the entire back plate, something clicked on.  It dawned on me, why not just pull out one of the breeding plugs?   Yes, that would work.  Who needs an on/off switch when you can go straight to the crux?  Give it a go and … it works!  So, now, from someone who, for years, switched her cooker on and off with pliers, to someone who switches her television on and off by pulling the plug out.  The remote, meantime, doesn’t work for the first ten minutes of lift off.  Not a movement!   Oh, well, why succumb to ‘progress’?  In a dispensable world, dare to be different!

That’s a thousand words already and I haven’t even mentioned Trinny!  In my back pocket for some time, now, my brief encounter with the style icon come modern day make-up guru was predictably comedic.  To be honest, I was only at her launch event at Harvey Nichs as Becca’s plus one and so I was standing back.  However, being maligned for her penchant for green eyeliner, Becca alerted Trinny to my presence and threw me under the bus!  There was a crowd gathered, for goodness sake – Trinny look-a-likes desperate for any soupçon of acknowledgement from their idol and she decided to concentrate on me.  Classic!  To my relief, it was all being filmed as Trinny told me that she detested my green eyeliner before turning to Becca and declaring, “Your mother is very demanding”.  Pot, kettle, black?  “Nothing in comparison to Trinny!”, I replied.  Oh, it went on for some time as she left me with one eye ‘made up’ before I suggested that I might want to go out?  What colour of lipstick did I wear?  None.  “Why doesn’t that surprise me?”, was Trinny’s retort.  Further evidence that we would definitely be friends …  In all seriousness, she is a character.  Clearly intelligent, she is a force to be reckoned with and time spent with her would never be boring.  Important in a world in which now, more than ever, we are being increasingly reminded of life’s fragility.

Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today and I’ll always remember it.’

David Nicholls, One Day.

Don’t fret about the future.  I mean, God forbid, Neighbours  might be cancelled …

This is Trish, signing off.